An Interview with Author Courtney C. Stevens

An Interview with Author Courtney C. Stevens

As a lot of you know, recently I managed the social media for a book festival. This opportunity came to me via a Bitch, natch. Erin Alvarado handed me the gift of this job back in September and I spent six months getting to know the forty authors who would be at the festival. But I got to know them as the festival, not as myself. So when I met them, I was like, 'Hi, I know everything about the last six months of your life and until this moment, you didn't know I existed'. Totally normal interaction, right?

Luckily for me, authors are nice people! And a few of them had already met me because I would show up at their events and take pictures for the festival's social media. One of these authors is today's bitch. I looooove Courtney! Watching her interact with the 2,000 (!!) kids at SE-YA Book Festival was inspiring. I expected Courtney to have passion for writing and for talking about writing, but I was blown away by her enthusiasm for the kids and her ability to connect with them. She has a unique gift and I can't wait to make her be my friend. Meet today's bitch, YA author and my future rock climbing instructor, Courtney C. Stevens!

What do you do and what are the name of your books?

I name tattoos. I own bandsaws. I climb rock walls. Oh, and I write books with fun relatable titles. Here they be:  Faking NormalThe Lies About Truth, and Dress Codes for Small Towns.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Did you know Carolyn Keene isn’t a person? She was a bunch of people. What!?! The day I figured that out--say college or so--I thought, well, huh, real people write novels for money. I wanted to be real too, (like Pinocchio, but taller.) I figured out writing was my career when I realized I would write for free.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

I once heard editor Jordan Brown say, “You can do whatever you want. As long as it works.”

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you write?

It’s not a crafty lesson, but I try to remember that I type sitting down, and I write standing up. If I write from the overflow of a life actually lived, rather than a life imagined, my imagination will have more life.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Study screenwriting.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

They caught it on film. It’s that scene early in The Hunger Games where I put my hand up so they won’t kill my sister. It was a small thing, but I had to do it. Honestly, I can’t think of anything that writing has cost me that I wouldn’t have voluntarily given.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of?

Oh, how to pick. The time machine I built in my basement or my new found ability to apparate? Hmmmm. I think I should go with having the opportunity to partner with the next generation of world changers through the written word. So, basically, what every author is doing, and I’m super glad I get to do it too.

Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?

I appreciate brushing my teeth a great deal. And after that, I’m one of those writers who wears jeans instead of pajama pants. So, before I write, I dress in real clothes, have a Diet Coke, and turn on my playlist.

How do you decompress at night?

I snack in the shower, read, and watch part of a TV show on my iPad.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

If I’m stuck, I usually exercise. Physical movement turns my gerbil brain wheel. My current favorite quote is from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

What does self care look like in your life?

Time and guilt are the enemies of self-care. So, self-care is first about understanding my yeses and nos. Before I tell someone I will do something, I ask myself: Does saying yes right now get me where I want to be? If the answer is yes, then I commit. If the answer is no, I politely decline. If I keep that boundary in place, I do a much better job of protecting my physical and emotional time.

To battle guilt, I have two grounding mantras. One, shared by my friend Ruta Sepetys, “Who do you love and who loves you?” She encouraged me to ask myself that question as a way to minimize work guilt. We are human beings not human doings, and making myself consciously say “Who” rather than “What” keeps my soul in better condition.

The second mantra comes from my faith life, because I find that it’s easy to get caught up in sales and external measurements. When my brain starts to tick that way I’ll say, “Hey, Stevens, God will never ask you how many books you sold. But... He’ll probably ask you who you loved. Are you loving people?” That helps me keep the main thing the main thing. Beyond that, I exercise four or five times a week. I wrote a thing about time management and artists, and you can find it here if you are interested in my jabbering ideas.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

Absolutely. I believe everywhere you see a successful woman, you can pretty much bet on the fact that she is standing on the shoulders of other women. I wrote about it in this post: The Chasm of Can’t and The Women Who Could. If I start naming names, I might never stop.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I’m currently watching The Good Wife as my iPad show. With my roommates, I’m following two shows this season:  Supergirl and Big Little Lies.

In the snack department, I love a good Cheez-It, (but I don’t recommend them for the shower.)

All photos courtesy of Courtney C. Stevens

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Parnassus Events and Marketing Director, Niki Coffman!

P.P.S. See a full list of all my Bitches here!

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